Saturday, May 21, 2016

my dinner with -- you

Come on in and sit down. It's time for dinner.

What shall we talk about? Food is always a good starter. But then starters are food, aren't they? (Yup. It's going to be one of those dinners.)

Because our weather has crossed the boundary into hot and humid, I thought I would have something light for my mid-day meal -- "dinner" as my Minnesota grandmother would have it. I had some leftover home-made chili served over pasta waiting in the refrigerator, but it was just too heavy for the day.

Instead, I decided to do what good cooks (those who are not tied to Stalinist recipes) do, and put together a meal with whatever was fresh in today's market. Despite the heat, I found some firm, small cucumbers -- and a rather inviting jicama.

If you have not tried jicama, you should. It is a root, indigenous to Mexico,  that looks a good deal like a turnip wrapped in brown paper. The flesh is crisp with a slightly sweet taste. Some people say it reminds them of apple. To me, it tastes like -- jicama.

With the cucumbers and jicama in hand, I knew what I was going to make. Pico de gallo. Or rooster's beak.

When I moved to Mexico, I thought pico de gallo was a salsa made of onion, chilis, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice. I was disabused of that notion when I asked a local grocer if I should use jalapeño or serrano chilies in my pico de gallo. She laughed, and said neither.

Pico de gallo
is made with cucumbers, pineapple, and jicama. The tomato salsa is more properly called salsa mexicana (Mexican sauce) or salsa fresca (or fresh sauce).

Of course, I soon discovered culinary life in Mexico is not that simple. There are regions where the tomato salsa is called pico de gallo. And, because I live in a village where people have come from all over Mexico, the tomato salsa is called a lot of things by different people.

But, culinary matters, like most things, are far less complicated within the walls of the house with no name. Here, pico de gallo is made without tomatoes.

Today's version is also made without pineapple. I have been told that mango is also a good substitute. But neither were in the market today.

Watermelon was. It turns out to have been a great choice. Cubed, the watermelon, jicama, and cucumber have complementary crunches. And the lime and chili powder (lots of chili powder) make for a very refreshing dinner on this fine Mexican day. 

A simple salad. A warm afternoon. A tranquil courtyard. It may not be quite the stimulating adventure I initially sought in Mexico, but it is days like this that make me glad I crossed the border.

It was a pleasure having you stop by for dinner. Sorry I dominated the conversation. Maybe next time.


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